Xander: Of Course I Knew...
"Xander, stop looking so down." Loren’s voice carried across the table, reaching my ears without really registering. "You’ve been sulking about for like three weeks." I shrugged a little, so that he would at least know I’d heard him. Loren reached over to sympathetically pat my forearm. "It’ll be fine," he told me. "She’s just one girl."
He was right, I supposed. But still the words felt so, so wrong. Very seldom did Xander Ocher develop feelings for a girl that stretched beyond lust and desire. After everything with Reina...well, I didnt much want to think about that. With Alessa, it had been more of a need, a desperate longing to save her. She was falling faster than she could imagine, and if no one was there to catch her, it might be her last crash.
Cole was sitting beside me, doing what he could to keep his opinions to himself. I knew what he thought anyway. I’d made the mistake to trust her, and she’d blown me off. End of story. There was a reason I never let people in.
Damn. I needed a drink.
"Why don’t you come over tonight?" Loren offered. "We don’t have to party or anything. I just…" Dramatic pause. I knew what was coming next. "We’re worried you might do something stupid if you’re alone too long."
Yes, of course. Once a suicidal, always a suicidal. I sat there speechless, because what could I possibly say? One too many attempts on my life, and now my friends didn’t trust me alone. At least I knew they cared, I guess.
"I’ll be fine," I assured them. "I mean, you said yourself. She’s just one girl."
With the help of my three best friends (Cole, Loren, and Jack), I managed to push the thought of Alessa from my mind. If she wanted to be off with some past lover, lost in her tidal wave of fantasies, that was her business. It wasn’t my job to fix her, and by now I figured that she was past wanting to be fixed. Alessa was the sort of person who was content to revel in her pain, wallow in her misery. She chose to be unhappy, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to change her mind.
So I let go. I gave up. Because every now and then, you had to let go in order to hold on. Sometimes it was okay to surrender the fight if you were only going to lose.
I managed, within a week, to fall back into my old self. The one I’d slowly been losing track of since I'd watched them lower Reina into the cold, hollow ground. The one that only wanted to live life with no regrets and no fears. To be free like a butterfly. I would not live in captivation, not of anything.
For once in my life, you’d think something would go my way.
Alessa: Of Course I Found Out...
There was nothing in the world that could have prepared me for what came next.
It had been three weeks of pure bliss. My old friends, the ones I'd loved in all my brighter days, and I had easily found what we’d once had. Or so they let me believe. One would think that people would learn from their mistakes. But I quickly realized that it was human nature to make the same follies over and over and over again.
This time, I let Max and the others go. There were no tears, no screams of agony, no bloodshed rivers swirling down the drain. There was nothing but me, standing alone despite the dozens of people around me in the lobby. He walked away laughing with the rest of the posse, and I let him, and I knew that this time there would be no second chance. And I knew that it was useless holding onto something that was never truly meant to be mine.
Ellie and the others managed to bite their tongues when I came crawling back to their table, to hold back their declarations of ‘I told you so’. I smiled and pushed myself into conversations about Snowball, which was coming up in only one short week. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be going. But I told them all they would have fun without me and blahblahblah.
On Saturday, I arrived to Paul’s a little bit earlier. Ellie wasn’t there, and neither were Nick or Sean.
But Xander was, which was all that really mattered to me. He was standing beside the bar, pretending to be engrossed in our current averages. Like he honestly thought someone was gaining on him.
I knew he could tell I was there. Surely I couldn’t be the only one who felt the electricity in the air, the acidic tension between us. Did he want to run to me like I wanted to run to him? Did he want to kiss me and sweep me off my feet and take me to a land without pain like the movie in my head?
I didn’t know. But I knew I had to try, because when someone felt as much as I did there was nothing that justified giving up.
So I made my way across to him, and I reached out to tap him on the shoulder. He turned around slowly, deliberately. His crystalline blue eyes met my own dull ones, and there was no way to deny it. There was a magic in this boy, however ruined he was, and it was just begging to get out. I wanted to be the one to find that magic. Maybe there was a way it could heal us both, if we only gave it a chance.
"Alessa." He said. His voice was vacant, an echo. Without another word, he reached down for my hand and pulled me towards the door.
Outside, the air was warm, but not warm enough. The sun was shining, and the snow was starting to fade into puddles. Soon Spring would be upon us, in all its green and hopeful splendor. And I would still be black, and hopeless, and cold as ever. While the sky would be turning to a bright shade of blue highlighted with an ethereal glow, in my own world there would be nothing but rainbows of blood smeared across acid painted skies.
I opened my mouth to speak, never mind that I hadn’t the slightest idea what to say to him. Sorry didn’t sound sincere, and anyway I had to wonder if I really was. But Xander never gave me a chance, because a moment later his lips were upon my own, and I was being pulled to his chest.
Kissing Xander was the most natural thing in the universe. I couldn’t tell where he began and I ended, only that together, we were one. Like we had been made for each other’s arms. At that moment, I knew that there was nothing and nobody else. Maybe there had been. Maybe once upon a time, when I’d been younger and more naïve. But here and now was all that mattered. And here and now, there was nothing else.
When he pulled away, he was emotionless as ever. "Alessa," he repeated. "What do you want?"
"What do I want?" I repeated between gasps for breath. He was staring at me fixedly, head cocked ever so slightly, those damned blue eyes searching my face for even a trace of emotion. But I had become vacant as ever, drowning out my sorrows and my desires and my very soul, that blackened thing I’d forsaken so long ago.
And then he nodded, though the gesture was barely visible. "Yes," he said slowly. Purposely. "What do you want?"
I swallowed hard, tried to steady my inhalations. To no prevail, of course. My heart was pounding and my mind was racing and all the while I was trying with everything I had left to hold onto him whether or not he had ever been mine to hold in the first place.
"You," I said at last. "I want you. I want to hold you and kiss you and be with you without having to worry that in a second you’ll disappear. I want to wake up in the morning and never have to wonder if I was only dreaming about your arms around me. I want something so vividly real it makes my head spin."
Now it was his breathing that was staggered. He stared at me for several achingly silent moments, each one measured by the dull thudding of his heart.
"Why the hell would you want someone like me?" He managed to choke out at last.
"Because," I replied. "Because someday I’m going to die. Maybe not today, but you never know. I mean, it’s only ten in the morning. Someday I’m going to die, and if you’re the last person I ever get to see, my life will have been worth it."